Saturday, February 25, 2012

Head Games

Here it is, kittens..the first edition of blogging on demand! One of my loyal followers (you know you who you are) asked me to write about head games... and OH BOY .. what a topic it is.

For those of you not up to date on your "American", head games is a term commonly used in the US to describe a variety of mental and emotional manipulations. It's not easily "defined" .. if you look it up on the web you'll get something similar to: "delusion: the act of deluding; deception by creating illusory ideas". Personally, head games are more to me than that. They are a way of manipulating and controlling a person or a situation to ensure the best possible outcome for the person performing the "head games".

Wow, where to start with this? I've experienced more than my fair share of head games; especially at the hands of my ex-husband. He was quite the expert, continuously reminding me that I wouldn't be anywhere in life without him, that I was no longer a "person" but a "mother" and a "wife", and let's not forget reminding me that with my health conditions and my "mediocre" looks I'd never find anyone "better than him" to take care of me. The good news is that I'm no longer with this .... him and I'm well on my way to healing the damage he inflicted on my soul (the heart was the easy part to heal). I no longer believe the things about myself he insisted were true and know that I'm a strong, inspirational, compassionate and beautiful woman. Self appreciation at it's best right there, kittens.

Another fortunate thing about my 9 year stint with continuous head games was that I finally learned to recognize them and remove myself from the situation. The first part was far easier than the second part at times, but I'm here to help you through the whole thing. Well, maybe it'll help, maybe it won't.. but I can at the very least offer you my thoughts on it and how I handle it.
The first thing you need to learn is how to recognize "head games". Sometimes it's really obvious when someone is playing head games with you. They outright manipulate you, spread rumors about you, or tell you things that you know aren't true. They do this with the intent of getting you to either agree to "be on their side" or to do something they want you to do. However, those who are really good at head games play them without anyone realizing it.. and you suddenly find yourself either doing things that aren't in character for you or alienating yourself from people you would normally want in your life. Of course, there are hundreds of other outcomes, it just depends on what the person is trying to get out of the situation. Remember, head games are NOT about you ... they are about the person playing them.

Below you'll find several of the head game techniques I've come across in my dealings, and the examples I'm providing are ones that have happened to me personally. Yes, they are "significant other" focused, but remember, these games can be played by significant others, parents, siblings, friends, children -- basically anyone. I'm not saying that every time a situation arises that fits one of these categories that someone is automatically trying to manipulate you. It's all about recognizing the pattern when it's happening.

The Guilt Trip.
One of the most "beloved" head games out there is the good old fashion guilt trip; this is one of the many aspects of Passive/Aggressive -- but I think I'll cover that particular topic at another time. I'm sure we're all familiar with how it goes.

Me: "Do you have anything significant planned tonight?"
Him: "Not really, why?"
Me" "I was invited to an early dinner with a couple of friends from work. I think I'll go, I should be home around 7"
Him: "wow.. um ok. Go out with your girlfriends, it's not like I had a surprise planned or anything. I guess I'll just sit at home alone and wait for you to get home. Have fun" Of course, all of this is said with the woe is me Eeyore mentality and you suddenly start second guessing yourself.
Me: "You said you didn't have anything planned"
Him: "Well, I didn't want to give it away, but I guess it doesn't matter now.. go out and have fun, I guess I'll just make a sandwich or something, or maybe I'll just skip dinner tonight."

Sound familiar? Notice the start of the conversation, nothing was planned, and as soon as I said I was going to go out with someone else, it suddenly evolved into "I had something special planned" and suddenly he's not going to eat at all. I'm suddenly in a lose/lose situation - if I go out, he's pouting at home and not eating.. and will certainly tell me all about his boredom and lack of food when I get home. If I stay home, I disappoint my friends (and myself) and we would most likely end up not doing anything at all because "our fight put him in a bad mood." I don't remember a fight, do you?

Back Handed Compliments or Outright Insults
It's hard to feel good about yourself when you're constantly being put down, especially by someone who is supposed to love you. Outright insults are one thing -- they are pretty easy to spot and usually make you feel pretty crappy about yourself right out of the gate. Although keep in mind they may be said "in jest" .. that doesn't mean the person doesn't think it's true.

Him: "Wow, you really suck at this whole cooking thing, don't you?"
Me: "What? It's spaghetti .. and I thought it was pretty good"
Him: "Oh you know I'm just kidding ... you'd better get the kitchen cleaned up before people start thinking you're a slob .. hahahahah"

A three sentence conversation, and I'm pretty much convinced I have no place in the kitchen. Now, remember's about pattern recognition - this wasn't a one time thing -- these types of conversations happened on a regular basis.

Back handed compliments are a little harder to recognize and much more effective sometimes. Someone compliments you on something, but marries it together with something that you've done poorly. It works for actions and appearance and just about everything else. I'm going to give two examples, one that's a little more obvious .. and the other that's a lesser recognized form of backhanded compliment.

Me: "I think I'll color and straighten my hair today, I need something different"
Him" "Good idea, it's looking a little dull I'm sure you'll look wonderful " (this, by the way is an appropriate answer and a nice compliment)
Me ... several hours later: "All done, what do you think?"
Him: "I like it, it makes you look older and it's much easier to look at than all those ridiculous curls"

So, as you see above, it's "almost" a compliment.. .he likes the hair - and the older comment was actually taken as a compliment. However, the comment about the "ridiculous curls" is a hidden insult; showing how much he dislikes something about me. (remember, I have naturally curly hair).

Here's a less obvious example of a back-handed compliment
Me: "I got a promotion at work! I'll be the executive administrative assistant to the Vice President!"
Him" "Congratulations, it's about time the recognized your talents" (again, genuine compliment there)
Me: "Yea, I'm so excited"
Him" "I'm happy for you. Glad I'm here to show you what you're capable of"

Not as obvious, but the intent of the sentence was to remind me that I wouldn't have been able to get the job if he didn't tell me I was good enough for it. One of the "backhanded" compliments I dealt with a lot was the "I helped you get to where you are". Um...NO you didn't... I did, thank you very much; I don't remember you being at the office doing my work for me.

Over the top praise / Well timed compliments
Ohhh the over the top praise thing. Other wise known as "false" praise. It's a way for someone to get what they want out of you by making you feel really good about yourself. PLEASE don't get this confused with actual praise from people that love and respect you. We should be able to get compliments from people without them expecting something in return. The pattern recognition comes into play when you realize that the ONLY time you get praise or compliments is right before something is asked of you - or when they tell you something that is wrong about you.

Him: "Wow the house looks great today, you must have worked really hard to make sure everything is clean"
Me: "Thanks,yea it took some time, but I finally got everything done."
Him: "Next time, don't forget about the bathroom floor, it's still sticky from all that hairspray you insist on using"

What happened here is obvious.. good job.. but NOT quite good enough.

or ...

Him: "Have I told you lately that you're amazing? You always understand me, and I really appreciate everything you do for me. I'm so lucky to have you in my life. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Me (blushing of course): "awww thank you so much"
Him: "I have to cancel our plans to go to the zoo on Saturday. Steve is going to take me off-roading. I know you understand because you're amazing like that, you always know when I need to go off and be a guy. You're so perfect"

Overkill much? With all those compliments in one conversation, if I were to argue with him canceling our plans to go out with his friend, I'd look like a total bitch. Manipulation at it's best.

OK, I know that was a lot to ingest; and you're wondering what to do now. Like I said several times, if something like any of the above happens to you once in a while.. try not to put too much into it. We are ALL guilty of being on the giving end of something like this when we don't really mean it. Keep an eye out, though, if it starts to become a pattern - and most of the conversations you have with someone end up with you being manipulated, it's time for you to step back and re-evaluation the relationship.

Sometimes, you can talk to the other person and tell them what you're feeling. "Hey, I realized that the only time you ever really compliment me is when you want something. That makes me feel pretty bad about myself, like I'm only good enough for you when you want something." Or "remember that night I decided to not to go out because you said you planned something special? Did you really just want me to stay home that night?" Hopefully the person you're having the conversation with is mature enough to recognize the issue and will take steps to stop doing these things. If not -- then it's time for you to remove yourself from the relationship -- or at least distance yourself a bit. It's not always easy, and sometimes not possible to remove yourself completely -- but it's important to remember that nobody can hurt you unless you give them permission to. By allowing these types of scenarios to happen over and over; you are allowing someone else to manipulate you. Find some friends, talk to them, get their support and walk away as much as you can.

Here is my personal challenge to you: take a step inward and search yourself. Do you use head games? Sometimes? With any specific person? All the time? I'll be 100% honest with you, I have found myself doing it at times. I've realized that I'm pulling a guilt trip on someone .. or being passive/aggressive, or one of the other things I've talked about here. When that happens I STOP, look inward and try to understand why I did it. Was it because I didn't want to hurt their feelings so I took an alternative approach? If that's the case, I need to buck up and have a grown up conversation with them..not resort to games because it's "easier" for me. Is it because I don't like the person and want them to go away? See answer above. Is it because I don't respect them for some reason -- then there's a real issue and I need to re-evaluate the relationship as a whole.

So, I know this has been incredibly long and a whole lot to take in. I hope I haven't babbled too much about myself and my horrible 2nd marriage. Above everything else, I hope you got something out of it; and that you're able to improve your self and increase your personal happiness because of it. Much Love, Kittens!

Be at peace with yourself and you'll be at peace with the world

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What is Respect

I've recently had quite a few discussions with people regarding respect. People really like using that word, though sometimes I'm not really sure they completely know what it means. There are several ways of looking at the word, so I'm going to take a few minutes to explore it.

Of course, there's the standard definition: A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their ability, qualities, or achievements. That's interesting. Most of the time when I hear people spouting off about respect, it usually has very little to do with this definition. It's more of a selfish standpoint of "My respect is earned..and you should be honored to have it." Um.. No. If you're using that attitude with me, you OBVIOUSLY don't hold any respect towards me to begin with.

With the technical definition aside, I'm going to focus on respecting people with whom you are in a relationship with. Now, this relationship can be a friendship, a partnership, an intimate relationship, even a working relationship. In order for a relationship to work completely, there must be a level of mutual respect. Respect is very rarely equal, but it certainly needs to be present on both sides in order to have a successful relationship. When there isn't any respect, trust goes out the window, and resent moves right in.

I see respect in a different light than a lot of people, so I'll share my thoughts on it here. Respect is more than just a word to me, it's a culmination of several things that, when put together, represent a high regard for the person with which you're dealing. I like to use the word respect as an acronym for a variety of different actions and thoughts; when put together, show the other person you truly do respect them.

R: Responsibility. In a respectful relationship, you take responsibility for your actions and your words. When you do something that hurts the other person, you take responsibility for it and apologize. Only then can you hope to move forward with the relationship.

E: Engage. No, I don't mean engage as in married (gah!). Engaging the other person in your thought process, your decision making, and other aspects of your life as necessary is an excellent way to show your respect for them. If you continue to make all the decisions on your own (especially ones that involve the other person) you are immediately negating their thoughts or feelings on the subject, and in return; proving that you don't respect their wishes or beliefs.

S: Selfless. Be selfless; give yourself to others (to the extent that you can). Remember that the world doesn't revolve around you and that in a strong relationship, it's up to you to keep the feelings, desires and needs of the other person in mind when you act on something.

P: Purge. I know, it's an odd word, but it's important to purge yourself and your relationships of negative energy. Get rid of the "bad" stuff.. if you respect someone, truly respect them, and they have offered an apology for something they have done wrong, forgive them. Purge it from your relationship and don't bring it up again. Respect is about moving forward, not living in the past.

E: Earn. It's said all the time... respect is earned. I believe this to a degree, but I think people take the concept a little too far sometimes. That being said, I think that the best way to earn respect is to respect others in return. Earn respect by showing others that you're a good, compassionate, thoughtful person.

C: Care. Care about others, and show you care. Don't just assume that they know and don't just tell them - words can be very empty sometimes. Put your words into actions and SHOW them you care. Let them lean on you. Lend an ear, or a hand up, or help when they need it. Help them laugh when they are down and cry with them when they are hurt.

T: Truth. Tell. The. Truth. All the time, without fail. If you respect someone, you don't lie to them -- end of story. Lying to someone is the ultimate betrayal of trust; and just proves that you don't respect them at all.

So, there it is in a nutshell -- take it for what you can get out of it. But remember this - respecting someone and showing that respect to them is the single most important part of a relationship. Every relationship.

Be at peace with yourself, and you'll be at peace with the world.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trying to Once Again Find Myself

Well, it's been a while, again ... and, who knows, maybe I'll stick with it this time and keep writing. Writing is therapy for me, even if nobody ever actually reads the things I publish. My overall intent with this blog, and in my life, is to help others look deeper into themselves and find the areas that they think need positive change by sharing my own experiences. Hopefully I can inspire them to make the changes they see necessary in themselves, and in turn, make the world a better place to live in.

However, the last few months I have completely lost myself. Between being sick (again) - this time with Breast Cancer - and a new relationship that is now (sadly) over, all things Trinity fell to the side. I was focused on healing and making someone else happy - and in the midst of all that - I lost sight of myself and turned into a different person.

First, let's talk about what happened. In October I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Although it was a bit of a shock, it didn't devastate me as much it does the general public. Since I've been dealing with Leukemia for nearly 14 years and have had everything happen to me from kidney failure, to tumors being removed from my spine, to loosing the eyesight in one eye for 6 months - even flat lining three times - the new lump found in my right breast was just another obstacle for me to face. I'm a Warrior .. nothing can really keep me down (or so I thought!). In November I had my surgery and started radiation. It sucked. Lots. The radiation destroyed every ounce of energy I had and I was pretty much a hermit as I didn't have the ability to do much outside of my house. I started feeling sorry for myself and getting the "whoa is me" personality I try to counsel people away from on a regular basis.

In the midst of all this turmoil, I met a guy. OK, technically I didn't meet him in the middle of all of this, I'd known him for a while and we finally decided to take the chance and start seeing each other exclusively. Looking back, I realize that I compromised my own values and went against things that I have set for myself on who I should and shouldn't date. Not that he's not a wonderful and amazing person. He is .. very much so. He's compassionate, and helpful, and very loving, and a wonderful man. Although we are no longer a couple, I sincerely hope that we can remain close friends and I already miss what we had together. Like I said, overall this entire fiasco was my fault for going against my own rules and dating someone that I knew I shouldn't have. No, you don't get to know why I shouldn't have because there are some things about myself, and about the people I care for, that just remain private. In the end, we are both hurting, and although I don't take all of the blame for what happened, I do realize that we're hurting because I didn't listen to myself in the beginning.

The illness, mixed with the new relationship completely turned me into someone else. I was not nearly has upbeat and happy as I usually am. I lost most of my positive outlook on life. I stopped focusing on my reason for being and stopped helping other people like I should be doing. I know, a lot of people - my own friends included - always tell me "sometimes it's important to focus on yourself. Sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish in order to get through something" (especially something as traumatic as the Big C). However, I took this too far, and lost sight of who and what I was. I changed.... and I finally realized it ...and I realized I do NOT like what I changed into. Part of this change happened because of the illness and my inability to do much for other people...and in the mean time I got complacent with things. It also happened because I was so focused on ensuring my new beau was happy and did everything in my power to do what made him smile most. We do that for our new significant others sometimes ... :)

Rest assured, my dear and devoted kittens, I do NOT blame anyone but MYSELF for the change that has happened and this "other" person I find in the mirror lately. I also don't expect anyone to do fix this for me, I'm simply explaining it all to you and letting you know what's going on in this brain of mine.

And here we are ... at a crossroads in my life. I stare down two very distinct roads; the one I just traveled down splits off. I can continue the road I was on, it's a bit simpler to travel on; and it makes me happy sometimes and gives me short term bliss. It automatically guarantees the people around me are happy and get what they want, and in turn makes me happy by knowing I caused joy - but I am not genuinely happy. Or, I can turn, and take the road that jets off to the side. It's a much more difficult road to be on; filled with difficult choices, much more self reflection, changing myself back to who I was, ensuring that I don't compromise myself to make others happy. I will be helping people find their bliss, helping others understand themselves and find joy and ways to positively improve themselves and their lives. And I will find my true happiness - hopefully with a partner that understand me and shares my values and outlooks (eventually) in the process.

So, here I go... stepping off the road that was much more easily traveled, and heading down the new one. Wanna join me .. I'm happy to have the company, and who knows, maybe you'll learn some things that will help you along the way?